Speaking to PEOPLE at the 40th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards, put on by the Women’s Sports Foundation, on Wednesday, the U.S. women’s national soccer team star opened up about her relationship with Bird and their special “understanding” of each other as fellow athletes.
“We are huge fans of each other. I have become, like, a Seattle Storm number one superfan, of course,” Rapinoe tells PEOPLE. “I think it is just the understanding of what we have to go through and the appreciation of, you know, each other’s skills and lives is really special. And in the same sense, we are just normal to each other. Which is really nice. Like, neither of us are like, ‘Oh wow you are the best person that has ever played basketball.’ Which she is!”
Rapinoe, 34, adds that she feels incredibly comfortable with Bird, 39, because of their shared professional experience, and says it has allowed her to be herself with her partner.
“It is nice to just be able to totally unwind and be completely yourself and, you know, have someone understand and appreciate how special it is, what you are doing, but also just love you for who you are and just to be that kind of support system,” she explains. “Honestly, it’s really nice.”
The star forward also jokes that she loves being a “WAG” to Bird — an acronym used to refer to wives and girlfriends of high-profile athletes.
“I love being a WAG and a superfan,” Rapinoe says. “I think it’s AMAZING and to be able to, you know, watch your partner exceed and excel and be exactly who they are in a public forum. That’s pretty special.”
“I am all into the games,” she adds. “I just think she is amazing, of course … Neither of us are jealous or weird about each other’s careers. We are just kind of there to support each other.”
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Rapinoe and Bird have been dating for over two years now, after first getting to know each other during the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics. The pair became the first same-sex couple featured in ESPN’s Body Issue last year.
The professional soccer player has had a whirlwind year, from going head to head with President Donald Trump, advocating for equal pay, and winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She tells PEOPLE that she’s loved every second of it.
“It’s very busy. It’s fun. There’s a lot of flights. Glittery shirts. Getting done up. Playing soccer,” Rapinoe says of her schedule. “It’s kind of a lot, but it’s good! It’s pretty cool to be living in this moment. It feels like such a whirlwind and I’m totally overwhelmed, but also kind of enjoying that fact.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation — established in 1974 by tennis great Billie Jean King — works to empower female athletes of all ages by funding groundbreaking research.
“We provide financial fuel to aspiring champion athletes,” according to the organization’s website. “We educate. We advocate. And we help communities get girls active.”